tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC July 6, 2011 12:00am-1:00am EDT
this mess that they have made of the yellowstone river seems outside their grasp. late friday night, one of exxon's oil pipelines burst beneath the yellowstone river. the cause of the rupture is so far unknown, but the result is visible as far as the eye can see, 42,000 gallons of crude oil is the estimate, an estimate 1,000 barrels of oil overrun its banks and coating everything in sight. right after the accident happened, exxon officials estimated most of the oil released would affect only a 10-mile area surrounding the rupture. they were forced to acknowledge a day later the spill would
reach beyond that ten-mile stretch. officials say oil has been spotted 40 miles away. it's unlikely there's any oil in the water at this point. again, that was yesterday afternoon. here's video from earlier today. that's oil. that's the water. that's oil in the water. during a press conference over the weekend, exxon's top official at the scene reported that no injured wildlife had been found in the area, unless bathing in crude oil is a hot new trend in montana wildlife, that exxon claim would also be disproven by photos. there's also reports of a dead duck that's turned up since of the in terms of the health risks posed by their spill, exxon mobile reports we continue to monitor air quality and all previous reports confirm no danger to public health. no danger to public health,
everything is fine, relax people, don't overreact. one person decided to challenge that claim in person with the president of exxon pipeline company. >> i know two people in the hospital, one passed out last night because of the fumes, and now my wife, and i don't believe you don't know what's in the oil, what's making people sick. >> in terms of the air quality around the yellowstone river right now, which again, exxon says it has been fastidiously monitoring, another local property owner told the associated press "the smell has been enough to gag a maggot." the associated press reporter confirmed with his or her nose. in the four days since the pipeline ruptured under the yellowstone river, exxon mobiles public statements of fact have not squared with the actual facts.
consider the matter how we got here in the first place. in may, exxon officials shut down this very pipeline over concerns about rising water levels around the river. they were asked by city officials to assess the risk of operating this pipeline in these high-water conditions. after performing that risk assessment, the company decided to restart the pipeline and decided any risk from high water in the river was low. they just decided based on reviewing their own safety record that actually high water was no big deal for this pipeline, they can handle it. what's believed to have caused this oil spill? high waters in recent weeks that may have exposed the pipeline to debris. exxon mobile, reviewing its own safety record to make that decision is important here because it calls to mind exxon mobile's safety record.
july of last year, officials notified exxon the pipeline was against violations of the law. they were in apparent violation of emergency response training, rules governing the potential corrosion of pipe, and having out of dates maps and records of the pipeline. exxon records included valves on the pipeline that no longer existed. exxon says they still haven't seen the pipe that caused the mess in the first place. exxon saying "we are very curious about what may have happened at the bottom of the river." they have to be curious about it because they still haven't seen it. again, exxon mobile is one of the most-profitable companies on planet earth. exxon is one of the most-profitable companies the earth has known in the history of people making profit with companies, yet four days after this big oil spill of theirs they have no way of seeing the ruptured pipe in question, they say they are curious about it.
what does all of the money in the world buy a company like exxon in terms of response capabilities of a spill like this? there it is, all the money in the world, 45,000 feet of floating boom, eight miles of boom to try to contain all the oil, that rather depressing shot of the boom look familiar to you at all? yeah, it's the same type of largely ineffective boom used during the bp oil spill last year. if that boom looked familiar back then, it's because it's the same type of largely ineffective boom used earlier in the santa barbara spill in 1969. this is the level of exxon's response to an oil spill in 2011, boom. also, about 2,000 absorbent pads. clean-up crews can be seen laying down these pads. what does a company with more resources than any company has ever had -- do you have paper towels? that's pretty much it, absorbent pads.
that's their technology. exxon has been proven wrong over and over and over again over the past four days and the president of montana rages against the company for causing the disaster and the lack of resources to respond to it. what the rest of us in the country are left with here is first of all the specter of the yellowstone river, this pristine national treasure befouled to the point where the smell is enough to gag a maggot. we're left with that as a nation and with the sense of awe and wonder there's a red versus blue, democratic versus republican fight in washington because democrats want to stop tax payer subsidies to this industry, to the richest companies, the richest industries civilization has ever
known. apparently that is worth fighting over. joining us now, the governor of montana, govern, thank you for your time today, good to see you. >> great to be back, rachel. >> can you give us any update on the extent of the damage? what's your understanding? >> nobody knows. they flow on the river, i flew over the river. from an airplane you can barely see any oil at all. you can't see what's happening on those lowlands, those prairie areas. what happened is the river was crested, it was at flood stage, when the pipe burst. now the river is coming down, and those areas that are outside the river channel are now losing the water because it's draining back into the river or its infiltrating and what's left behind is this black goo. they tell us they've flown in the river, but the river is too
high to put boats on, so they say the furthest we've seen it is 15 miles. with all the profits exxon mobile has, they haven't bought a $2 calculator to know 48 hours, it's running 7 miles per hour, that's enough to get it to the north dakota border and we are now much more than 48 hours, and yet they say well, it could only have gone 25 miles. well, of course, oil floats on top of water, water is moving down very quickly, so it's moving along -- some of that oil moved to the north dakota border. >> are you satisfied with how exxon mobile has responded to the leak since they found out about it? do you think a company with as many resources as they have should be able to do more than they are doing? >> well, you know, reagan famously said we will trust but verify, but when the president of this pipeline company came out during the first 24 hours said it's gone 10 miles and
there's no damage to wildlife, that was leaving us with just verify and verify, so it is the montana department of environmental quality, epa, yeah, we're working with exxon mobile, they'll ultimately pay for this, they told me today they would, but just a year and a week ago, i called in all the agencies in state government and said let's have a mock drill right now, what happens if a pipeline bursts right now, what agency is in charge, who pays for it. i was confirmed they work together and they strategically place equipment around the country, near these pipelines, and when there's an emergency they come together and work together until the disaster is fixed. nope, doesn't come out that way. equipment come from the coast, we waited a couple of days until we had any kind of a boat or crew could get on the river. so, if you wait long enough, this oil will dissipate, and, of
course, the interests of the state of montana to protect this river and the wildlife is not perfectly aligned with exxon mobile whose primary interest is to protect the liability with their shareholders. >> what do you attribute the difference between the drill and the way it worked out. were people lying about the degree of readiness or is this something that -- is this something where it could be better regulation, something where the mistakes were unforeseeable, what explains that, do you think? >> all of the above and older technology. this pipeline is a 20-year old pipeline. we no longer have a pipeline that's just five feet into the sediment at the bottom of a river. if you're building new pipelines, the protocol today is that you drill horizontally 25 feet below the river bed so even if it were to burst, it wouldn't be introduced to the river.
i asked today if you replace this pipeline, are you going to horizontally drill under the river? i wasn't sure what the answer was. they were engineers that sounded like lawyers. >> the affects of these spills can last years, that depends on how the clean-up effort is and how bad the damage is. do you have concerns about exxon mobile to stick around to clean up the river and help those who have been hurt by this? >> i told them today that the clean-up will be done when the client, the state of montana, the people of montana, and the wildlife of montana decide that clean-up is done. it won't be decided by exxon mobile or bureaucrats in washington, d.c. when we decide the clean-up is done, it's done. i'm the only soil scientist in america that's a governor. i'll be on this like smell on a skunk until it's fixed. >> thank you for your time tonight, sir, and good luck
dealing with this exxon mess on your hands. >> thank you. >> brand new magazine writer at large, frank rich will join us for the interview shortly. a vacation on a budget with expedia. make it work. booking a flight by itself is an uh-oh. see if we can "stitch" together a better deal. that's a hint, antoine. ooh! see what anandra did? booking your flight and hotel at the same time gets you prices hotels and airlines won't let expedia show separately. book it. major wow factor! where you book matters. expedia.
in what possible political context does this make sense? in what possible political context does a state senate president say without a grin on his face -- does a state senate president say of his state's governor "i want to punch him in the head"? that happened. the totally infuriating context for that is next. introducing the schwab mobile app.
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♪ and when you dance with me ♪ you always make me smile [ male announcer ] we believe you're at your best when you can relax and be yourself. and at thousands of newly refreshed holiday inn hotels, you always can. holiday inn. stay you. and now stay rewarded with vacation pay. stay two weekend nights and get a $75 prepaid card. welcome back again from the 4th of july holiday weekend, in case you have been having a personal news vacation, which i hope you have been. let me tell you the great state of minnesota is still closed. we brought you this story on friday when the people of minnesota were just finishing day one of their state government shutdown. state road repair, if it's not an emergency, forget it. those new bridges they are building, not right now. state rest stops, nope, hoping to get your driver's license? no. child care assistance, not now. parks like this one, closed.
and now, actually, worse off than before they closed, police arrested 12 people this weekend for breaking into an office and a pair of cabins in minnesota and also for adding a body part in spray paint to poor smokey the bear as reports the minneapolis star tribune. the state sheriff's office says this wouldn't have happened if the state government had not shut down and sent the workers home. today a bipartisan panel of minnesota luminaries, including walter mondale stepped in and former republican governor stepped in too to try to broker some kind of deal, some kind of end to this standoff. democratic governor mark dayton met briefly with lawmakers this afternoon. what's happening in minnesota is not only being described as a fight over the budget, the republican legislature wants big spending cuts to close the deficit and the governor wants a mix of spending cuts and taxes on people making over $1 million
a year. consider also that minnesota's republicans also threw into their list of demands things like banning abortion at 20 weeks and getting rid of union rights and making it harder to vote. what does that have to do with a budget shutdown? not a lot, but if a budget is seen as something to be hoped for and steered at, why not just throw in every demand plus the kitchen sink? frankly, you're not hoping to avoid a shutdown, you are hoping for a shutdown, preferably a long one, so you can brag about it later. minnesota gripped by one of the longest strikes in history, why? result, pawlenty won.
>> i'm tim pawlenty and i won. you, you may be losing you blind and deaf minnesotans who have to do without while republicans insist on changing the voting rules in an abortion ban. you may be losing, but i, tim pawlenty, am made of wind. tim pawlenty decided a state government shutting down when he was in charge of that state government is a great political outcome, great enough to run for president on even. but as big fightings like this unfold all over the country right now, who wins these fights isn't always just in the eye of the ambitious beholder.
when wisconsin governor scott walker -- the people filled the capital building and streets of madison for weeks. people who support union rights lost in the sense that governor's bill passed but also won in the larger picture. by fighting governor walker, wisconsin built momentum they needed to force a recall election for most of the republican state senators eligible for recall and voted for the bill. six of them now up for recall this summer. wisconsin republicans tried to force recalls for all the democrats eligible too, but they just got three of them, less than half the number they were aiming at. in one of those races, the republican candidate failed to make it on the ballot. he only needed 400 signatures to get his name on there and he didn't even bother to sign his own petition himself, so he's not going to be in that election. wisconsin republicans won the
elections in their state last year handedly, the republicans in wisconsin won in 2010, but wisconsin republicans are losing 2011 badly because of their overreach on policy matters and because democrats fought them back on union rights so hard and gave the people who are angered by what the republicans were doing a place to channel their anger. in wisconsin, that's how it's worked out. new jersey, you're not wisconsin. when chris christie of new jersey proposed his own union-stripping bill, people who support unions turned out in protests. the labor unions marched, more than once, governor christie did exactly what scott walker did in wisconsin by going after union rights, but in new jersey, the fight did not go the way it did in wisconsin, because the democrats in new jersey did not stand up against chris christie, most did, but they were not united against them. some democrats went along with chris christie on stripping union rights.
they said they had to do it in order to protect their other priorities. give a little now, in exchange, chris christie would give in a little for them on something else. so the democrats are in the major in the legislature in both houses, but the democrats in new jersey do what chris christie want anyways, enough vote with republicans to pass the plan. they leave union rights out to dry because they are getting other things they want from governor christie in exchange. what do you think happens next? governor chris christie signs the budget stripping union rights in the state, and what do the democrats get in return? they get nothing. chris christie uses his veto power to whack out nearly $900 million in programs the democrats had bargained with him to keep and added in new tax payer give aways to corporations to adjure to the already injurious insult. they got actually less than nothing in return.
the democratic state senate president, steven sweeney says wow, he just can't believe it. he tells reporters "this is all about him, governor christie, being a bully and a punk. the leader said when he found out what governor christie had done, "i want to punch him in the head." you know who he reminds me of? the mean old bastard who screws everybody. now the democratic who went along with chris christie on this wants you to know he has a plan. >> well, guess what, we are going to fight back, we are going to make the arguments, and we're going to prove a point that this is not right to the tax payers of this state. >> yeah, the time for fighting generally is between the opening bell and the closing one. you can fight and win, you can fight and lose, but lose forward like wisconsin democrats did, fighting like held and thereby
inspiring the people they fight for, but if you, instead, assume the fetal position during the fight, then come up swinging once it's over, the technical term for that it too late. on union rights or any what are supposed to be core democratic principles, if you vender and you -- surrender and still get beaten up. new natureluxe mousse mascara! luxurious volume with a light-as-air feel. we took out a heavy synthetic and put in a light touch of beeswax. up with the volume, down with the weight. lashes are 20% lighter than the most expensive mascara. new natureluxe mousse mascara. so free your volume! and...your easy breezy beautiful covergirl. and try natureluxe glossbalm. a living, breathing intelligence that's helping drive the future of business. in here, inventory can be taught to learn.
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putting them on trial. that's the kind of thing we used to condemn over countries, that used to make us crow about our devotion to the law. but beyond how we put people in prison and if we believe that's a thing that needs to be done beyond the bounds of law, we also started holding people in new places. the cia started holding people in secret prisons. investigative reporters following airplane tail members think they turned up evidence of these cia black site prisons in places like poland and romania and thailand, among others. the u.s. military also started holding prisoners in countries where they were captured and in some cases back in the united states and even in a corner of a hostile communist country in the caribbean. our off-shore prison, set up there to avoid the jurisdiction of any country's laws, including our own.
but lest we think that pretty much covers it in term of 9/11 putting people in prison, here's a new one, since april, we have been holding a prisoner on a navy ship. he's a young somali and an indictment today says u.s. forces arrested him in april and brought him to some u.s. navy ship somewhere where they questioned him for two months about his alleged ties to al qaeda. now the prisoner has been flown to new york city to face charges in a real civilian court. the administration says most of this young man's questioning on the ship took place before he was read his miranda rights and he continued cooperating after he was finally advised of those rights. thus, we are unnoticed, the map of where we think our countries prisons might be must include all the oceans.
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for utah governor john huntsman. his former chief of staff just endorsed somebody who is not john huntsman for president. he today endorsing mitt romney, who having been called out for saying president obama has made the economy worse since he took office when he did no such thing has gone from denying he ever said that about president obama to saying it over and over and over again. also in 2012 news today, newt gingrich has not released his numbers for the first fundraising quarter, but is already lowering expectations for that announcement. i mean really lowering those expectations. think basement level and a few floors below that. mr. gingrich claims "candidly the consultants left us in debt, but every single week since they
left, we've been cutting down the debt and we raise more than we spend in a week." so since they left, we've been bringing in more than we're spending. he wants to clarify, which presumably means before that, he was not bringing in more than he was spending every week. also in 2012 news today, herman cain, the pizza ceo hired new staffers in iowa. that means he's replacing some of the staffers who quit his campaign last week. no one knows why campaign staffers have been quitting both in iowa and in new hampshire, but politico ran a strange assertion today about "staff and volunteers in the hawkeye state accusing each other of affairs, homosexuality, and misconduct. i would like to explain, but that's it. no sourcing and nobody knows what they mean.
nice. the process of picking a presidential nominee in either party frankly is always kind of fun. in this republican party in this year in particular, it is going to be a whole lot of fun. there's really no sport, art, or spect call in the united states of america that can compete with presidential politics for sheer american entertainment value. when it comes to the question, though, of who will win and whether or not president obama is going to get a second term, the determinists among us determine however fun this whole process is, the process of republican party picking a nominee is irrelevant. the determinists among us tell us they don't even need to know the name of who the republicans -- the name of the republicans are going to choose for the nominee to predict the election results next november. the determinists among us say the only thing you need to know to tell us who is going to win the next election is what the unemployment rate is. no president has been reelected with a unemployment rate above
7.2%. that's what it was when reagan was reelected. over 7.2 unemployment, no president has ever won himself a second term. 7.2. unemployment rate right now, 9.1. whether or not that forecast is more motivating than anything else about unemployment rate being that high, what options do the obama administration have to consider for bringing the unemployment rate down? what can they do? one thing they can't do is contract government spending. the non-partisan government office and federal reserve both reported recently contracting spending would put the recovery at risk. whatever deal needs to be figured out, whatever fight in washington, anything that dramatically shrinks spending now, would put what ground we
gained since the recession at risk. in other words, anybody worried about the debt and deficit, in the short-term, right now in terms of the current economic situation we're in with 9.1% unemployment, do not cut spending. it will put everything at risk. three months ago frank rich left the new york times. mr. rich argues that mr. obama's reelection is in jeopardy not only because of the high unemployment rate but because the president did not deal with the root causes of the recession in the first place, and those root causes are not some mysterious, grand weakness in the economy but rather the potentially criminal conniving fraud carried out by a batch of wall street bankers who have been let off scot-free. joining us now, frank rich, doing his first interview since becoming a writer at large for new york magazine.
his first article entitled "obama's original sin" was published online sunday. congratulations on your new gig. >> thanks, thank you for having me. >> you're wearing it well. in terms of the financial crisis, what options do you think president obama had that he did not take? >> well, the biggest thing is no one has been prosecutored. the justice department started operation broken trust but has gone chasing after mini-madoffs. regulation has fallen by the wayside, not only is the bill weak, but now it's being besieged by lobbyist, and lobbying democrats and republicans, so the rule maiking isn't happening. elizabeth warren, the consumer protection bureau, never fought for it, so he's sort of been to passive, i think, over the cloud that hangs over the country and has the affect of making the unemployment situation
politically worse too because it's not clear he's on the side of the people who suffered most over the last three or four years. >> on those personnel and individual issues, on prosecutions, on the issue of elizabeth warren, do you think those things would have an important symbolic affect or do you think they'd have a material affect in terms of the recovery? >> in terms of the recovery, a symbolic effect of the the fact is i feel because he didn't address this and address this real injustice in the country, it sort of makes him be linked to wall street as sort of a defender of wall street even though he probably isn't in real life, once made his famous fat cats remarks, then retreated from it, but at the same time he never really had a big concerted jobs program beyond the original too small stimulus, he sort of segued from the stimulus to
health care and now to incredibly, as you've been talking about tonight, fighting the republicans on their own turf of the deficit when government spending has to happen to help dig americans out of this hole. long-term, you're right, of course, spending has to be brought in control and we have to consider deficits, but we are in a recovery that's not happening for too many americans. >> one of the things you read about in new york magazine in this piece is the sort of magically invisible polling on whether or not people really care about the deficit, by these huge margins people would much prefer the government to focus priorities on job creation and bringing the economy back from the dead rather than focusing on deficit reduction, but in washington, deficit reduction is like a church. >> it's a church and it's become a middle of the road church, editorial paged church too that everyone is supposed to just be preoccupied with the deficit. as you said and as i wrote, the polling has never known
americans care most about that, even after the so-called sha lacking. even by a huge margin voters told polls they wanted unemployment and the economy fixed way ahead of the deficit. why it's become this church that's the entire establishment, it's not just republicans and conservatives, it's the democratic liberal establishments to some extent. i don't get it, politically disastrous and obviously, bad for the country. >> i think that generally one of the things that -- one of the things that i sort of feel like is the metta issue 1 nobody cares about hypocrisy, so you tell a politician they are being a hypocrite, they don't care about the substance of it, but the beltway should care about hypocrisy.
the people that set the common wisdom in washington and the beltway press ought to care about their own hypocrisy and not given a hoot about the deficit, now it's a 100% u-turn against the obama administration. seems that could be something to embarrass them about. >> you'd think so. again, it's very important we know the liberal establishment as part of this, not just the hypocrisy of conservative republicans who gave bush a blank check for the war in iraq and gave everyone tax cuts, a lot of democratic establishments signed on to it and didn't make a fuss or when they did make a fuss were designated as the far left, it's just crazy. now hypocrisy is enormous, and i don't understand -- none of even the sincere or sort of sincere hypocrites opt center of this debate on the deficit have explained why cutting short-term deficit is going to help
americans in a sputtering recovery. no one offered a single explanation. have you heard one? >> you do hear the sort of up is down, black is white, day is night explanation that somehow getting the deficit more under control will be a device. >> oh, because people will therefore be sort of not on edge, corporations sitting on $2 trillion dollars worth of cash won't be on edge with uncertainty. that's just ridiculous. that's a very thin read. >> even thinner read is that corporations are being -- aren't borrowing money to invest in equipment and expansion that would allow them to hire new workers because the government has taken up so much of the debt that interest rates are very high, interest rates that are a spitting distance of zero. >> these are goldberg arguments, if people remember that reference, they are so convoluted and don't make sense because they don't make sense,
and yet i think the public is sort of tuned out from this, and it's sad. i think people are really depressed, people who are suffering right now, not to mention poor people, but middle class people who can't get jobs, have family members that can't get jobs, they must regard washington by large as a relevant joke. >> you explained one of the reasons you wrote this piece was because you have started to fear for president obama's reelection chances. when you think about those overall prospects and when you think about the president's political challenge about trying to get reelected next november, do you think there is sort of time and political space for him to reclaim the populism that you're suggesting he ought to sort of pursue? >> i think -- look, absolutely, there's a long time between now and election day. i should start with the fight now about the debt ceiling. he's got to -- he's already
taken a somewhat weakened position for the reasons we've been talking about, but he's got to stand strong. i would say challenge the republicans to do to the country what happened in minnesota. >> but they will do it, though, don't you think they are after shutdown for its own value? >> if so, i just don't see how a party whose whole stick is we're against government won't be blamed for it. i don't see how obama can be blamed for that. this is the anti-government party, the republican party. if the government shuts down, it will look like they got what they wanted, and i think when people start not getting their checks, when services break down, when there's real chaos at a time of this huge unemployment, i think he should call their bluff. i felt that for a long time. >> on the debt ceiling, i think one of the important issues in terms of framing this, we're speeding right to it, down to the point where contingency plans are falling into place, it is, in part, a government
shutdown, they'll have to shut down parts of the government to avoid defaulting on the parts they need to spend they can't default on. the one thing will happen, interest rates in spitting distance of zero, that might actually change. that's the one flexibility we have in the economy right now. >> right. >> it could do real, serious damage. >> real, serious damage. and it's amazing that this is not being discussed by this beltway establishment. in fact, how much reporting or commentary have you seen that even deals with the what-if scenario except in the broadest terms, timothy geithner saying it's going to be a catastrophe, but nobody has spelled out to the public what it means, including liberals and the democrats. >> yeah, and that may be some spine-stiffening coming on that as time goes by. frank rich, former new york times columnist, it's really nice of you to have done your first interview now that you're
with new york magazine with me, i'm really glad. out on the campaign trail, mitt romney keeps saying president obama has been made the recession worse. i would like him to say that to ed shultz's face. ed has a few things to say that after this show. and the difficulty of finding a good repairman in space. [ male announcer ] things seem better with travelocity's best price guarantee.
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while washington fights over republicans demanding cuts from everything while leaving tack pair subsidies for corporate jets and oil subsidies alone, the house could cut the budget for the national nuclear security administration that lock up loose nukes all over the world. they help other countries detect and intercept loose nuclear material. countries like muldova where authorities are arrested six people trying to sell more than two pounds of uranium 235 used in nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs. police say the uranium 235 was stored in a sealed, lead container in one of the suspect's apartments.
the six suspects had smuggled it from russia, and they were trying to sell at least some of it to as yet unnamed north african country. asking price, nearly $30 million. authorities had been monitoring the suspects since march, but they say they had some help, help from, quote, experts from ukraine, germany and the united states. temperature only takes 55 pounds of enriched uranium and not particularly difficult to master technology to made a crude nuclear bomb, making a dirty bomb is easier to do. you need less radioactive material and almost no technology to do that. yes, as these arrests remind us, there is an active black market for enriched uranium. whatever scant piece of mind there is comes thanks to the hard and aggressive work of agencies like the the national nuclear administration now on the chopping blocks thanks to house republicans this year. they're on the chopping block thanks to house republicans to the tune of about a billion dollars. but the private jet tax
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last week a piece of space junk whizzed past the international space station at 29,000 miles an hour. six astronauts were inside the space station more than 200 miles above the earth. they were warned the space junk was coming and there was a chance it might hit them. as it approached them they hunkered down inside two capsules attached to the space station.
luckily, they didn't get hit. what would have happened if they had? let's say a piece of space garbage whacks into the craft keeping awe live and you need rescue or repair? who do you call in space and need help? the flight director after whom nasa, christopher craft, is pointing out that who you call in the event of an emergency in space is the space shuttle. he wrote a letter if god forbid life support fails or the thrusters fail without a space shuttle to mount a rescue or repair mission. he recruited big names to endorse his warning, astronauts like the man who commanded the first space shuttle mission and neil armstrong and jim lovell of apollo 13 fame. today the countdown clock started for the last space shuttle mission, sts-135. "atlantis" is the last shuttle to make the ride into orbit on
friday. the reason they were selected was not to fly in mission. they were selected for this trip after only initially training to go up if the crew of the previous shuttle, sts-134 needed a space rescue. 134 was the last trip. these guys were the space tow truck drivers if they were needed. even though 134 didn't need rescuing, earlier this year nasa decided to send them up anyway. now what happens if these astronauts need to be rescued? there's nobody coming after them. there's no tow truck anymore. they'd have to come home in a russian sousz capsule. the four-person team may catch rides home as they're available, meaning one of the four astronauts, the pilot, might not get to come home for about a year. if something goes wrong that's the plan. three of the four hitch rides with the russians and one guy stays in space for a year